Roanoke Partnership Launches New Farm to School Program Featuring Locally Grown Produce

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Local produce to be distributed via curbside meal pickup on Friday, January 29th

From school gardens to farm field trips and local food on cafeteria trays, farm to school programs help children learn where food comes from and how to make healthier choices while creating new markets for local and regional farmers. Although some traditional farm to school activities may not be feasible amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Roanoke City Public Schools (RCPS) is moving forward to incorporate more local-grown products into school meals and provide educators and families with additional resources related to nutrition, cooking, gardening, agriculture, and stretching food dollars.

“Roanoke City Public Schools is committed to expanding nutrition education and supporting farm to school efforts,” states Ellen Craddock, RCPS Director of Food and Nutrition. “We believe these efforts will not only benefit our students, but our entire community. Our expanded efforts include the promotion of The Virginia Harvest of the Month campaign.”

The Virginia Harvest of the Month Campaign aims to increase children’s consumption of seasonal fruits and vegetables, grown locally. This campaign was developed by the Virginia Department of Education and initiated in 2019. Each month of the year, the campaign features an in-season, local-grown agricultural product in educational and promotional programming as well as in school meals.

To celebrate January’s Harvest of the Month, the sweet potato, RCPS and their Food Service Provider, SodexoMAGIC, partnered with Local Environmental Agriculture Project (LEAP) to procure local-grown sweet potatoes. The sweet potatoes are being purchased via 4P Foods from Virginia grown Kirby Farms, and will be included in curbside meal distribution on January 29th. Along with the sweet potatoes, RCPS families are receiving recipes and additional information about this crop to explore together.

For families and educators who want to dive a little deeper, the new farm to school website includes Harvest of the Month videos, other fun activities, and recipes featuring the sweet potato. This new website was developed by Virginia Cooperative Extension in partnership with Virginia’s Family Nutrition Program. It also includes information about how families can connect to Roanoke community gardens and other local food resources, Virginia Cooperative Extension curricula and resources on various topics related to farm to school for all grade levels, and more. To access the website, visit https://sites.google.com/vt.edu/farmtoschool

“Farm to school helps children, families, and the community see, taste, and feel the important connections between our bodies and the food we grow and eat. As a community of farmers and farmer supporters, we are here and we want to serve our community as best we can,” says Maureen McNamara Best, Director of LEAP. The RCPS Farm to School work is a partnership between RCPS, LEAP, and Virginia Cooperative Extension and is funded through a United States Department of Agriculture Farm to School Planning grant held by LEAP.

If you are interested in getting involved in the Farm to School program or have questions, please contact Sam Hedges at [email protected], (540) 632.2295.